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Lonely and powerless, Ruto’s new fortunes

By Eric Wainaina
Thursday, May 21st, 2020
Deputy President William Ruto with Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa during the food distribution to the clergy at PCEA Ruthigiti, Kikuyu, Kiambu county. Photo/DPPS

When he resurfaced in public on Wednesday days after President Uhuru Kenyatta engineered a ruthless purge on his allies in Parliament, Deputy President William Ruto cut the image of a lonely and powerless politician despite being the country’s second in command.

During the tour to donate food to the clergy at Ruthigiti PCEA Church in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, before visiting a water project and farms in the semi-arid Ndeiya village, Ruto was accompanied only by area MP Kimani Ichung’wa after local administration officials gave his visit a wide berth.

During the visit, Ruto recorded an interview at a vegetable farm, asking Kenyans to support each other during this difficult time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Anyone who can afford an extra meal should make it available for their neighbour, for the person next door, and those of us who can mobilise support for families that do not have food, we must go out of our way because this is a very interesting scenario. Not planned, no one expected it and we do not have statistics on what is going to happen in the near future,” Ruto said.

This was a completely new picture of the DP who in the past would attract a high-profile delegation of government officials and politicians while making even what would have been considered private tours, through which he would get wide coverage as he articulated government programmes.

The DP has been growing increasingly isolated in government and politically and today, observers and leaders, including his allies who spoke to the People Daily on Thursday said he no longer wields the power and influence he exercised before. 

During Jubilee’s first term and early days of the current administration, the DP had great influence in government that he would issue directives to senior state officials. Today, not even county commissioners attend his functions.

There are claims that some civil servants no longer pick his calls or heed to his summons, a clear demonstration of his dwindling fortunes in a government he helped form.

Speaking to the People Daily on Thursday, May 21, his allies painted a picture of a man who has been reduced to a pale shadow of his former self, saying he no longer plays any role in government.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany said it was in public domain that the DP no longer enjoys the trappings of power due to his office nor the kind of treatment he deserves from government officials.

“The only role the DP is undertaking today is occasionally chairing the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) which provides a forum for consultation and cooperation between the national and county governments on budget issues because it is a complicated thing that only him or the President can chair,” Kositany said.

“The trend has been to frustrate him but it is them who are getting frustrated because he is unmoved. He doesn’t care even when county commissioners and police don’t attend his functions. He doesn’t care about the trappings of power being taken away from him. For him, the power is with God and the people,” said the Jubilee Party deputy secretary general.

But Ruto’s critics say the DP is blame for his changing political fortunes for what Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said was an abuse of trust reflected in alleged attempts to “blackmail, arm-twist, overreach and even defy his boss”.

According to Kutuny, who between 2013 and 2017 worked as a political adviser to the President, Ruto wielded so much power during the first term that in most instances his demands carried the day in government decisions. 

“The power has already gone. No one (in government) wants to associate with him or even talk to him. No one wants to consult him and I am sure even phone calls have reduced. Politicians have begun running away and I doubt civil servants want to engage with him. Going forward we are going to see a more powerless person,” the MP said.

To demonstrate the DP’s power and influence, Kutuny  said after Cabinet meetings at State House, Ruto would drive with most Cabinet Secretaries to his Karen residence under the disguise of having lunch where more government discussions and decisions would be made.

“During the last term, I can say the Deputy President was the de facto President. He wielded a lot of power. He influenced decisions of government, dictated on government projects, on who would be an ambassador and to what country as well as the heads of parastatals. All this he did by arm-twisting the President,” claimed the MP.

According to Kutuny, Ruto created the image that he was in a  coalition government with Uhuru, making him appear like the President’s blue-eyed boy. This forced politicians from across the political divide to fight to be close to him.

Prof  Macharia Munene of the United States International University (USIU) said he was not surprised that the DP appears to have lost the power he used to exercise, saying it’s a ”political process” because  deputy presidents are not supposed to shine over their boss.

“What happened is that when Uhuru and Ruto came to power in 2013, they came as some sort of equals, that is why the DP enjoyed much leeway and power.  He was tolerated because he was still needed. But now the political reality has sunk in and the political process taken over where the President must be the face of government,” said Munene.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega, one of the new fixers around the President, said Ruto has been working on powers delegated to him but went ahead to usurp his boss’s roles.

“Under the previous circumstances, it is Ruto who would have been the face of the fight against coronavirus. He is to blame for where he is. It’s him who has alienated himself from the centre of power. Perhaps the centre is too hot for him that he decided to move outside the ring,” said the MP.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March, the DP has been missing out of the picture and the only time he surfaced, he addressed a lone press conference at his Karen residence days after the President had given his address. 

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